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Let me tell you about quality


10/01/13
New labels for Slow Food Presidia...

A food product's quality is often identified only by physical and chemical analyses, tasting panels and measurable and defined parameters. But this technical approach fails to take into account the centuries-old story behind a product.
The conventional approach to food does not allow us to understand whether a food has been produced in a way that respects ecosystems and the environment, whether it conforms to concepts of social justice and whether workers' rights have been respected in the process. In fact, communication is often deliberately misleading, vaguely conjuring up rural worlds full of poetry, supposedly authentic techniques and illdefined traditional flavors. These evocative elements have nothing to do with the effective quality of the products being advertised. This is clear from the lists of wild and wonderful additives and ingredients on the
labels of the products we put into our shopping carts.

Often it is the most natural products that end up being penalized. Their labels, legally correct but brief, fail to do justice to the cheeses, meats or sweets they come on. They also fail to provide information about the producer.


Missing information
Though consumers are advised to read labels before buying, the labels themselves contain little in-depth information to help make an informed choice. According to Slow Food, the quality of a food product is, above all, a narrative that begins at its place of origin: where a species was domesticated or diversified, where a variety or a breed adapted or evolved naturally, where a cultivation or processing technique was first developed. That's not all. Information should also be provided about the characteristics of environment and place, about processing techniques, storage and marketing methods, environmental sustainability and, of course, organoleptic and nutritional properties.
Only a narrative can restore competi- tive value to a product, communicating its real, authentic difference from the mass of goods with labels that fail to provide information about fundamental questions.
After over two decades of experience working with hundreds of small-scale producers, Slow Food has developed a very specific concept of quality. This approach is one of the aspects that most distinguishes the association from other organizations involved in food and agriculture.


With the narrative label project, undertaken in 2011, the Slow Food Foundation has helped around 50 Presidia produce new labels with more information about varieties and breeds, cultivation and processing techniques, places of origin, animal welfare and storage and consumption recommendations. These narrative labels accompany the legally required ones and were be produced in collaboration with the Turin Chamber of Commerce's Chemical Laboratory. The lab also carried out nutritional analyses on some of the Presidium products, elaborating the tables that European law will make compulsory in 2016. Andrea Pezzana, a nutritionist at the San Giovanni Bosco hospital in Turin and a Slow Food Foundation expert, evaluated the results and highlighted the positive findings.


Arianna Marengo and Raffaella Ponzio


2012 Slow Food Almanac






   
 
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